Austin Darrow | CNBNewsnet
PHILADELPHIA PA--When’s the last time the Sixers were this hyped up? The season opener is tonight and even though there’s no more Ben Simmons in the mix, the game is still more anticipated than it has been in recent memory.
Also Nerlens Noel has been shelved and Jahlil Okafor is experiencing knee soreness. With that the home opener tonight is against a tough Oklahoma City Thunder, who is out to prove they don’t need Kevin Durant to succeed.
There’s a ton of questions that need to be answered by the end of the season.
For a 10-72 team, the first question is going to be, Will they be better than last year?
People were expecting a healthy Simmons to lead this team to a 30-40 win season, but that would mean improving the win total by 20 plus games and that would be the best one year turnaround in NBA history.
The team has lost a chunk of their core in Simmons, Okafor and Noel, so we won’t know how this team is for a good half of the season.
The excitement around Embiid is up there, but he won’t be playing full time just yet and this team isn’t going to have all of their guys until the holidays.
Other questions are on Embiid and Okafor and how those two will work together down low. The 7-2, 275 pound Embiid, had an impressive preseason.
He played with a lot of confidence and with little fear of re-injuring his foot. The team is going to have to be cautious about his playing time for this season.
Okafor on the other hand was the leading scorer for the Sixers last season. With Embiid to help down low by being a potential scoring threat, it could take defenders off Okafor and even lessen the workload for him.
Okafor will be coming off the bench until he’s 100% and the more you think about him against back up centers the more you like it. The problems of having Okafor and Embiid on the court at the same time is simply the lack of defense, but the offensive production would be tough to look away from.
A recent question that has been appearing a lot is whether or not the number one pick of this year’s draft will play. It seems like the Sixers first round picks always turn out to be injured and have to wait to play.
A normal procedure for Simmons’ foot would require a screw being inserted and then a three month recovery period. If the surgery required more than just a screw than his recovery time would be pushed back another month, and at that point I wouldn’t see the Sixers bringing him back.
Noel has been rumored to be on the trade market for months now and people are wondering when he’ll be out of here.
There’s been arguments about who would get shipped between Okafor and Noel. Okafor and Embiid are too good of a duo to be split up.
With that I would expect to see Noel be in another team’s uniform by seasons end.
All those questions should be answered by seasons end, but here are my predictions.
Embiid: 14 PPG, 10 RPG, 1.5 BPG
Okafor: 18 PPG, 8 RPG
Simmons will play, but don’t expect much from him.